COVID-19 workforce survey research report, week ending 24 July 2020

This report is part of a series of bi-weekly surveys of all councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland collecting key workforce data on how the local government sector is responding to COVID-19.


This report relates to the survey sent out on 29 July 2020, covering the week ending 24 July 2020. The overall response rate was 59 per cent and covered over a third of the total workforce. 

Key Findings

  • Some 30 per cent of councils reported recruiting additional staff (of any type including casual, agency, contingent, etc) in the week ending 24 July 2020. In total 1,191 additional staff had been recruited in responding authorities: the median number of staff per authority was three and the mean was 20. 
  • More than a third of councils (104) recorded deaths in service since lockdown. A total of 218 deaths in service were reported by respondents since the start of lockdown (cause not specified).
  • Twenty-seven per cent of councils reported that they had furloughed at least one member of staff full time. In total responding authorities reported there were 6,732 staff furloughed – full time in the week ending 24 July 2020, which was one per cent of the current workforce.
  • In addition, 17 per cent of councils reported that they had furloughed at least one member of staff part-time. In total respondents reported there were 2,933 staff furloughed part time in the week ending 24 July 2020, which was 0.5 per cent of the current workforce.
  • The main reason given for furloughing staff was that the service had stopped (88 per cent) or that funding had stopped (50 per cent).
  • Some 74 per cent of councils had redeployed staff. In total in the responding authorities there were 10,021 staff redeployed in the week ending 24 July 2020, which was two per cent of the current workforce. The median number of staff redeployed was 19 and the mean was 54. 
  • Just under nine out of ten councils (86 per cent) reported that they had at least one member of staff unavailable for work. In total, respondents reported there were 29,838 staff unavailable for work in the week ending 24 July 2020, six per cent of the current workforce. The median number of staff unavailable for work was 43 and the mean was 144. 
  • Thirty per cent of staff were unavailable through ‘self-isolation (other)’ and 42 per cent were unavailable due to ‘non-COVID sickness’.
  • When asked whether individual services had enough staff to run them normally or not, the service most badly affected during the week ending 24 July was schools: over a quarter of single tier and county councils reported they were operating with severe disruption due to staffing numbers. Also badly affected were adults and children’s services, with 23 per cent and 20 per cent of councils respectively reporting moderate disruption. 
  • When asked to assess the council overall, in terms of whether there are enough staff to run services normally or not, 62 per cent of councils report minor or moderate disruption.
  • Councils were asked about the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing for staff. Ninety per cent reported they had about the right amount of PPE they needed; whilst one per cent had less than they needed. Eighty-five per cent said all the staff who need testing can access it.
  • Looking ahead, councils were asked if they were experiencing significant difficulties recruiting for some posts, 67 (30 per cent) said they were. Councils were subsequently asked to choose from a list of specialist occupations where they were experiencing difficulties, 52 per cent of councils are having difficulties recruiting Children’s social workers and 42 per cent were having difficulties recruiting Planning officers.
  • Councils were asked to choose the five occupations or roles where recruitment difficulties were most acute. Fifty-three per cent of councils who answered the question had acute difficulties recruiting Children’s social workers
  • Out of the thirty-five councils who had said they had acute difficulties in recruiting Children’s social workers, 40 per cent said they had both difficulty recruiting generally and difficulty recruiting the required expertise, experience or qualification.

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Covid workforce survey 12 August
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